Surviving Office Politics
by Dale Kurow, M.S.
It’s your first month in a new position and it’s rougher going than you’d anticipated. You feel like an outsider and you’re miserable.
Pondering how this happened, you nostalgically recall how comfortable and well-liked you felt in your last job.
Not only do you possess the requisite skills to do well in your new position, you’ve also built a solid reputation in this field. Yet, you are floundering. Badly.
It’s not the actual work that is driving you crazy; you like the work. Even the long hours are not the problem.
It’s the emotional undercurrents, gossiping and backstabbing thickening the air that you find exhausting.
You can’t seem to find your feet and get traction in your new environment. And people have started to notice and are making comments.
What the heck is going on here?
Welcome to the world of office politics.
Here are tips to help you survive and thrive:
- Find a mentor – either inside or outside the company. A mentor can offer advice, counsel and act as a sounding board. Getting objective, professional support is crucial.
- Take notice of who performs well in your company. Observe their use of language, tone of voice, confidence level, and preparedness. Learn from their behavior and emulate it.
- Don’t complain, gossip or join in backstabbing conversations. Kvetching will get you nowhere.
- Learn to read the company’s culture. How do people dress and speak? What is the company’s mission statement? How is it reflected in the workplace and in the treatment of employees? For example, if you work for an environmentally-friendly company, don’t brag about your SUV.
- Form Strategic Alliances. Make yourself valuable to those with power, knowledge or tenure. Go out of your way to offer assistance. When you need help, you’ll have established a network of supporters.
- Think before you speak or act. One impulsive, off the cuff statement or act can significantly damage your career. Silence is golden, especially when you are angry, tired or at a company-sponsored social event.
- Proof your e-mails for typos and politically incorrect language. Every message you send is being judged. Make sure you don’t “bury the lead” in your e-mails. Get to the point quickly and end with a call to action.
- Request second-party endorsements. If you’ve performed well in an assignment or project, asking the manager whom you’ve helped to pass along words of praise to your boss is a smart thing to do. If they are willing to put it in writing, better yet.
- Hone your sense of humor. This can be your ace in the hole! It will get you through trying times and people will seek out your company.
Learning to effectively survive office politics is a skill that you perfect with trial and error. Anytime there are more than 2 people working together, you can experience tension and conflicting desires. You’ll need a tool kit of survival techniques. Start practicing now!
Dale Kurow, M.S., is an author and a career and executive coach in NYC. Dale works with clients across the U.S. and internationally, helping them to become better managers, figure out their next career moves and thrive despite office politics. Visit Dale’s web site at http://www.dalekurow.com/newsletter
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